Education: Gabe
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United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County

Education: Gabe

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Born prematurely, Amy’s son Gabe did not seem to struggle at first. But soon after his first birthday, Gabe’s development slowed to a stop.  

“They don’t tell you to be prepared for things like this when you decide to become a mom,” said Amy. “But Gabe is a piece of me – he is my life. So, we got help.”  

Amy and Gabe started therapy with Curative Care, a United Way partner agency supported by donations to the Community Fund. Curative therapists Miss Tess and Miss Patty came to Amy and Gabe’s house to work on his speech, language, and motor skills.  

As he grew, Gabe started displaying dangerous behavioral issues. He would climb furniture, leave the house, refuse to get dressed, and struggled to stay calm when out in public. Amy’s older son, Benji, and stepdaughters, Angel and Keke, began to feel unsafe. Gabe was quickly aging out of the Curative Care program and Amy knew she would have to fight to get Gabe the support he needed.  

“We had such a tough time with healthcare providers,” remembered Amy. “Their suggestion was to sign Gabe over to the State – it was crazy to me. So, we kept moving forward.”  

The team at Curative Care helped Amy connect to another United Way funded partner – Penfield Children’s Center.  

At Penfield, Therapist Kim tailored a specific treatment plan to meet Gabe and Amy’s needs. “Gabe was displaying typical behaviors for a child his age – aggression, noncompliance -- but displaying them at an increased frequency,” said Kim, also assistant director of Penfield’s behavior clinic. “So, our treatment focused on limit setting, listening, and positive reinforcement.”  

Amy was enthusiastic about trying all the tips Kim provided. Together, they created charts with pictures to help Gabe and his siblings follow routines, like brushing their teeth, eating breakfast, and getting dressed in the morning. When the kids completed each task, they would receive a sticker. An emotions chart helped Gabe identify how he was feeling so he and Amy could talk things through. Gabe could choose what would help him through tough feelings: a hug, a nap, a snack, etc.  

Therapist Kim was intentional about including the whole family in Gabe’s treatment plan. “We didn’t want Gabe to feel singled out,” said Kim. “This approach builds teamwork – we saw all the kids flourish because they were working together and rooting for each other.” 

Today, five-year-old Gabe is comfortable with his routines and thriving in kindergarten. He loves any outdoor activities and is particular about his style: “He always needs his pants cuffed,” said Amy with a smile.  

Though he still struggles with difficult behavior from time to time, the family’s commitment to consistency and routines helps him regulate.  

“Penfield and Curative Care helped us build trust with each other as a family,” said Amy. “Our time with Penfield is ending but we will walk away stronger and more understanding of one another. They really are a part of our family.”  

Your donations to United Way’s Community Fund support these and other programs across our community that help families thrive.  

Amy, Gabe, Penfield Children’s Center, and Curative Care remind us all that, to live better, we must Live United. Consider supporting this important work with a donation to United Way’s Community Fund.

 

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